Lisa Oliver-King is the Executive Director with Our Kitchen Table (OKT), a nonprofit organization that focuses on food and environmental justice, which go hand-in-hand with sustainability. Lisa said, “As minerals, soil, seeds, foods, water, and even air became to be viewed as resources to be traded for profit by those in power, those without power increasingly are harmed by the results—and often exploited for labor. In a world where clean air, healthy soil, healthy food, and clean water are seen as human rights, sustainability will follow”.
Our Kitchen Table makes its impact by engaging in dialogue and planting seeds of activism that go beyond planting a garden or growing a tomato. She mentioned that OKT’s work is like an analogy that the late Wangari Matthai spoke to—that we are one snail with a drop of water on our back making our way to help extinguish the fire. Lisa further notes that “True sustainability looks like people of the world enjoying food sovereignty, clean water, and peace as the result of living in a global culture that values the earth, health, and economic equality”.
Lisa is proud to celebrate OKT’s Food Policy for Food Justice series and their ability to teach neighbors to grow their own food, share the message of food justice, and maintain a walkable neighborhood farmer’s market for ten years, which increases the access to healthy, local produce. She is also proud that she and the Our Kitchen Table team are helping to change the focus from food charity to addressing root causes of hunger and food insecurity and that by working alongside constituents, they have become not only teachers but colleagues and students.
Systemic and institutional racism and funding structures have been barriers and challenges while working in the sustainability and environmental justice field, especially as a POC-led organization. Lisa mentioned that gaining trust has been challenging at times, but that building relationships is key to working collectively. Although there are many barriers to this work, Lisa believes that now is the time to build awareness that there has never been food justice in the United States, and to acknowledge that healthy food and clean water are basic human rights. She looks forward to the end of the disempowerment of People of Color and invites any sustainability professionals to share a meal with the OKT team to have an authentic conversation about how food justice intersects with racism, women’s rights, animal rights, workers’ rights, clean air and water, academic equity, and public health.